Remembering “Ghosts” of Christmas Past – Are You Trying to Forgive the Wrong Person?

Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness   (c)2017 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

How does one’s heart become hard? By neglecting to keep it soft.

One day, a word floated through my mind as others escaped my mouth. “Bitter.” I was remembering disappointments in life that took place long ago as if they had happened today.

During the course of this conversation, I realized I was hanging on to my anger. It was mine.

My speech was torrential blame. Clearly, there was  little effort applied toward understanding my responsibility in the fallout. While a guilty feeling  had  planted its ugly root in my heart, I had grown desperately deaf and turned off any willingness to hear complete truth. It was time to change.

“How can I get over what’s been done to me?” “How can I move on when I have been so wronged?” These questions and more have bounced around in my head for as long as I can remember.

For decades I took to the Lord my bitterness over destruction of my childhood family. I would pray to forgive, work up a good acceptance, and never fully be able to let it go. I wondered why, when it was my heart’s desire, God did not take resentment away.

Then an epiphany came. My efforts were directed at the wrong person! As long as self-blame was secreted away deep inside, all my effort at putting pain in the past would not work.

In childhood there was no way to win. Either of any two options would lead to someone’s anger at me. I grew up disappointed in myself and emotionally lost. Much of the false guilt collected as a child was never challenged. Some of it as an adult was born out of insecurity, self-loathing, and an unwillingness to lay responsibility where it belonged.

Nonetheless, there was real guilt, too. Extending forgiveness toward myself for parts played in ignorance or selfishness made it possible to move on and forgive others for their wrongs.

Thank God I was able to bless my parents before they died. 

Today’s Helpful Word

4 Possible Motives for Taking On Too Much (and how to restore balance)

Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness   (c)2017 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

Last night, a friend said he feels like a heel because sometimes the injustice of this world is too much to process and he makes himself not care. He blames his lack of feeling on an apathy he is convinced must reside at his core.

My friend is not apathetic; he is overwhelmed. He feels powerless. He beats himself up for not experiencing what he has judged to be the correct reaction.

We are going to feel powerless when we are powerless. A key component to developing healthy, compassionate boundaries is to recognize what we can and cannot control. Hint:  we cannot control other people or external events. We can only hope to manage our reactions.

Motives are choices

If we find we are frustrated, burned-out, or emotionally or physically dysfunctional because we have said yes to solving an overwhelming number of dilemmas, we need change.

Today you can learn to recognize some unhelpful motives that keep us stuck in patterns of saying yes. Also you will read practical tools for adjusting your life’s balance.  Let’s use the following scenario to guide us.

You have left your job one afternoon  extra tired because you have much to accomplish in the few days left before you leave on vacation.

There are errands. Pick-up gifts for the nieces and nephews; drive Bobby to his play practice, and then go home – to wrap presents, grab a snack to share, and head out the door to the neighborhood holiday party. Don’t forget to pick up Bobby!

Then Tina calls. She wants to talk some more about her divorce, the unfairness of her husband’s lawyer, and maybe she will ask you for gasoline money. It’s always “gasoline” money, although you never really know. 

4 possible motives for taking on too much (and how to restore balance)

1. Taking on responsibility for someone else’s difficulty can lead to false guilt. Empathy is important. However, there’s a difference between feeling with and feeling as if.  If you carry someone’s pain as if it were yours, you will likely feel more trapped into trying to relieve or solve it. Healthy compassion feels with, but does not own.

It helps to name the owner of the problem and say it aloud. “That’s Liam’s job loss”, “It’s Sally’s depression.” In this case, “It’s Tina’s divorce, not mine.”

2. Have you ever said or heard someone say, “no one else is doing it so I have to?”  As a director of children’s ministries years ago, I used to carefully upkeep church bulletin boards. Later, after that position ended, the bulletin boards stayed stagnant.   Children’s ministries continued fine without anyone spending hours on bulletin boards.

Not everything we think must be done is our responsibility or even necessary. Consider before committing, “What is the worst possible result if I do not do this?” In Tina’s case, she may have to find someone new to lean on. She will when you are gone on vacation anyway. Let guilt go.

3. The term ‘people-pleasing’ is a misnomer. Fear of displeasing people is the actual motive behind this self-protective behavior. It is only by saying yes to everything that we feel safe.

For example, We fear displeasing Tina, so we give her $20 for the third time. We fear the neighbor’s unhappiness so we  offer to host the next party. We fear our nephews and nieces disappointment in us so we buy more gifts than is necessary. 

Seeking validation and a sense of worth by helping others is not wrong, just backwards. We all need appreciation and acceptance. Nevertheless, as a motive, it pushes us to too many yesses when that validation doesn’t come fast or often enough.

Look at and test the evidence. Are there people who say no and remain appreciated and loved? Yes. Name them. You see it is possible, so why not you? Say no to something small. Did you survive? Keep practicing until what you are saying yes to matches with your highest priorities.

4. Sadly, past trauma may have taught us  that we have no innate boundary rights. An unresolved history may leave us with internal condemnation.  Talking deeper issues out with a therapist is a reasonable investment for a lifetime of freedom.

Truth is, compassion leads us to want to help. It can seem odd that sometimes the most compassionate choices involve saying no, drawing boundaries, practicing self-care, or not trying to fix anything.

Not much in this world is going to change dramatically because we took the time to pray, think, and discuss before saying yes and committing. 

Today’s Helpful Word

“Counted as Nothing at All…” 4 Choices Lead to a Life of Significance. Part Four

Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness   (c)2017 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

Your significance is not up for debate. However, do you wish your life had more meaning? Do you wonder if you are making a mark on the world? In parts one, two, and three of this four-part series, you learn some options for developing a meaningful existence, and for knowing that you are.  This is the last part. 

(4) Choose the promise

No doubt you have heard the phrase, “God has a plan for your life.” According to the “born-again” Christian viewpoint it is true, however only by surrendering to God can we live it out.  This may sound like only so much hogwash to some people. To those who believe or are willing to believe, this is the essence of hope for us, our families, and the world.

The short of it is that God’s plan for each person (as explained well in the 5 chapters of  1 John) is faith in Jesus Christ for eternal salvation. Beyond that, we are called to live in love toward God and each other.

Love. What a concept. Pure love is patient and kind, and does not envy or boast. It is not proud or rude. It is not looking out for #1 all the time, but is invested in the wellbeing of others. Love does not grow angry quickly, and holds no grudges.  It does not get excited about things that displease God, but is happy when truth wins out.  Love is protective, hopeful,  trusts wisely,  and perseveres. God-honoring love never fails.* 

That sounds amazing, does it not? This world could use more love like that.

When we step away from ourselves and surrender to God’s plan,  he turns what we may perceive as straw into gold. This is the promise that makes it clear our significance is not decided by circumstances or other people:

Romans 8:28. “And we know that God causes everything to work together for the good of those who love God and are called according to his purpose for them.” 

You do not have the power to know everything good that results from obeying God. Nevertheless, by choosing how you want to feel,  wisely selecting a standard for measuring significance,  and living by your values, you will know you have a meaningful existence.   

By grasping God’s promise, you can be at peace, believing it is all worth it.   

Today’s Helpful Word

*Based on 1 Corinthians 13:4-8

 

“Counted as Nothing at All…” 4 Choices Lead to a Life of Significance. Part Three

Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness   (c)2017 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

Your life matters. Period. Do you believe that?  By following my recommendation in part one of this four-part series, you have opportunity to choose how you want to feel.  In part two, you can choose the standard by which to measure your significance. 

Here is the third of four choices that lead to being certain yours is a meaningful existence. 

(3) Choose what kind of person you want to be 

We have to live with ourselves. That is tough to do if regret, memories of failure, or a sense of worthlessness fills our minds.  Two simple questions have the power to lift those burdens if we answer honestly and take action.

What kind of person do I want to be? 

What steps will I take today toward becoming that person?

Remember Phyllis, the retired woman from parts one and two of this series. She feels lonely, hides from social interaction due to shame over her weight, and misses being needed like she was on her job for many years.

As far as I know, she has not asked these questions. If she did, she might be surprised to discover her values once again. 

Knowing our values – certain of what is most important to us – is a guideline for decisions. Unfocused, I think all too often we allow days and years to slip past, sometimes complaining as they go.  A victim mindset is one that blames circumstances and others for disappointments. A defeatist mindset finds no reason to strive for better. Fear paralyzes us from moving forward. Questioning whether to remain the same is healthy.

I value helping people. This has been the driving force behind most of my choices. That does not mean I always do it well, or that I haven’t made colossal mistakes. Yet because helping is important, I take steps toward learning how. 

What about you? What kind of person do you want to be? What steps will you take today toward becoming that person?

Putting romance novels aside, perhaps Phyllis would enjoy reading to seniors or to children. Maybe joining her outgoing husband on one of his volunteer projects would bring her joy.  She has to decide if hiding at home or being needed is most important to her. 

How you answer these two questions will determine the power that regret, shame, and feeling worthless have in your future. Deciding to live by positive values will change your idea of the past. It will not own you anymore. You will look in the mirror and better like who you see. 

Each small step forward is a game-changer. 

Stay tuned for the final part of this series. 

Today’s Helpful Word

Joshua 24:15

“…then choose for yourselves this day whom you will serve…  But as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord.”   -Joshua

 

“Counted as Nothing at All…” 4 Choices Lead to a Life of Significance. Part Two

Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness   (c)2017 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

Do you want to know your life is important? In part one of this four-part series, I recommended you choose how you want to feel. Do you want to view yourself as minimally significant, or would you prefer to feel that each day of your life counts?

Here is part two of your four choices that lead to a meaningful existence. 

(2) Choose your measuring stick

In early America, measuring was arbitrary. A yard of fabric for instance, was measured from the elbow to the tips of one’s fingers. Fabric merchants would sometimes hire help with short arms to cut and sell the product. 

The government’s Weights and Measures Department was founded about the same time as 36 inches was adopted as the official yard. Now we have yard sticks.  

We all have measuring sticks by which we judge human behavior. A sense of personal value may raise or lower depending whether we meet our standards or not. 

Phyllis used to work with young people. Her job was vital to an entire community. She deserves a relaxing retirement, yet she misses helping others. She enjoys being needed. 

Then why does she waste time now? In part one I introduced you to her,  a retiree who hides from public view as much as possible. Her measuring stick is the opinions of others. Supposedly, if her weight were under control she would find a means of interacting with the world. 

Other popular yet temporary measuring sticks include money, fame, the approval of others, and achievement.  Problem is, money goes away in an instant sometimes. Positive opinions of others fail to hold us up because opinions change, and so does how we react to them.  Setting goals helps with motivation, yet  they are subject to shifting perceptions and moods.  A standard by which to build a more meaningful life depends on its permanence. 

You, Phyllis, and I can choose to believe that unseen does not equal unimportant. Regret and failure are not the end of a story. Proof of this is in millions of people’s stories all over the world. Notice those.  Take in that you have options.   

Ultimately, I care about God’s out-of-the-box point of view. 

“Remember, dear brothers and sisters, that few of you were wise in the world’s eyes or powerful or wealthy when God called you. Instead, God chose things the world considers foolish in order to shame those who think they are wise. And he chose things that are powerless to shame those who are powerful. God chose things despised by the world, things counted as nothing at all, and used them to bring to nothing what the world considers important. As a result, no one can ever boast in the presence of God.”  (1 Corinthians 1: 26-29, italics mine).

By allowing God to define what is great, I have reassurance in my worst moments of discouragement. 

Be assured, your life’s significance is not in question. Perhaps how you measure significance keeps you stuck.   

Stay tuned for your next choice that leads to knowing you matter.

Today’s Helpful Word

Genesis 1: 27-31

So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them…  God saw all that he had made, and it was very good. “

 

“Counted as Nothing at All…” 4 Choices Lead to a Life of Significance. Part One

Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness   (c)2017 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

How often do you feel significant? I mean, do you wake up each morning knowing your life matters? Do you doubt  that your efforts, personality, or place in the world are important? 

This four-part series offers four choices within your control that can lead to a meaningful existence. 

(1) Choose how you want to feel

A retired woman who I will call Phyllis, feels lonely and left out. Her days are spent reading romance novels and playing Candy Gram. Overeating helps numb her emotional pain, which in turn makes her self-conscious about her weight. She hides from public view as much as possible.  Her husband is socially active, a diligent volunteer in the community.

I do not know what she wants,  however it is probably fair to say she does not enjoy feeling lonely and left out.  She, like each of us, has options.

Try an experiment.  Think about the worst day of your week. Notice your mood. Did it lower? Now think about the best moment of your week. Did you smile or laugh a little? Did your mood rise a bit?

If we have that much control over how we feel, then we can do and say the things that help us feel better. 

For example, ice water is my favorite drink. When discouragement and a sense of uselessness override my thoughts, I do not want water. Self-care loses its standing on the priority list and I drink less healthy beverages. In turn, this decision often adds to my feelings of negativity. 

Ice water is not magic. What I believe about it and myself make the difference. Regardless specifics of the thought pattern, ice water makes me feel better. What makes you more light-hearted? Big deal or not, you can choose to incorporate it into those tough days when questions about the purpose of your life seem to rule your mind.  

You have to decide. Do you like misery enough to stay in it? Would you rather feel more pleased each day? Until you know what you want, motivation to change will be hard to come by. 

Stay tuned for the next three parts of this series. 

girl lookingToday’s Helpful Word

Psalm 32:8, 9

 The Lord says, “I will guide you along the best pathway for your life.  I will advise you and watch over you.  Do not be like a senseless horse or mule that needs a bit and bridle to keep it under control.”

 

Everyone is Two-Faced… For That We Can Be Grateful

Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness   (c)2017 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

The sun shines three out of thirty times on Thanksgiving Day in Cleveland, Ohio.  At least it rains at some point during those other twenty-seven holidays, so the sun must stay fairly hidden behind gray clouds.

We treasure sunny days here because they are rare. On average, we see about 65 bright days per year.  When Jesus asked his disciples,  “Would anyone light a lamp and then put it under a basket or under a bed?”* he may have heard Northeastern Ohioans shouting from the future – No!  We relish light.

Have you noticed that when two people first meet, everything in the relationship seems like sunshine and ponies? That is because we generally show our most acceptable side in the beginning.  A forgiving atmosphere seems prevalent as well.  It is as if both parties are willing to give a stranger the benefit of the doubt. 

Sure, we see and enjoy the best of each other’s personalities. Here’s the rub. Every person has two faces. It is okay, we can be grateful for that.

Some examples at your Thanksgiving table

Your excitable sister-in-law will bring lively chatter and enthusiastic responses to anyone’s good news.  That same excitable personality may express excessive worry when you mention a small problem. 

Your aunt is a dream when it comes to planning and executing family gatherings. You appreciate her attention to detail.  Perhaps her inflexibility when your uncle suggests a spontaneous trip, will bug you. 

A strong, silent cousin is everyone’s hero. There is no doubt who will be there to save the day in a crisis.  As the day goes on, you may be annoyed at his lack of communication. 

Everyone has two faces. They are not actually opposite, but extensions of the same core personality. So you see, if people at your Thanksgiving table are driving you batty, you can be grateful for their strengths.

Have fun with Gratitude! 

Today’s Helpful Word

To Survivors of Suicide Loss: Let There Be Peace this Thanksgiving

Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness   (c)2017 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

Patty was angry. Her sister had ended her life two years earlier, and left Patty in turmoil. Why had she done it? She knew she could have reached out to Patty and their other siblings.  She did not have to die.

Pastor Jones barely mentioned the past, uttering in generalities the story of his friend’s suicide thirty years earlier.  He was a fellow pastor who had called Jones and talked about feeling depressed.  Then he was gone. It did not require a doctorate to diagnose the guilt Pastor Jones carried on his face.  

These are only two of dozens of survivors of suicide loss I have met. They approach me, most often to tell what happened. They are not asking for advice or platitudes. Their tales are rarely welcomed in polite company, and they see in me someone willing to listen without judgment.

In every story there is one running theme: the question why.

Why suicide? Why did I not stop them? Why did they not ask for help? Why did I not listen? Why. Why. Why.

A Different Perspective

Sometimes I fear my story of surviving major depression and attempted suicide will only serve as a morbid reminder of pain for those who have lost someone to suicide. However, that has not proven true. Instead, as far as I have observed, my story helps those left behind with a perspective they may wish they could hear from their deceased loved one. 

For me, suicide seemed the only option after months of struggle with depression. If we wanted, we could blame me: I did not reach out for professional help until late in the process.  We could blame professionals: I was under their care when the suicide attempt occurred. We could blame the support person I reached out to who did not respond well. 

We would be wrong. There is no one directly to blame.* Suicide and suicide attempts result from mixed-up minds and torn-up emotions.

The person on the edge of a suicide attempt is not thinking about all the pain their death will bring to loved ones. Rather, they are thinking everyone will be better off.  They are not necessarily selfish, but unable to see beyond the suffering that is the only reality they comprehend.  They have not generally lost their faith.  Irrationality is due to a mental problem,  not reasonable cognitive choices. 

As supports, we only know what we know. There is no shame in not understanding how to help someone who may have reached out.  We are only human. There is no guilt to carry for being fallible. If we could change the past,  would we? Yes.  It is not too late to make peace with that.   

Anger, grief, confusion… these are natural after the death of a loved one to suicide.  Our loss is legitimate. We hurt. We want to blame someone, to find a reason for the senseless. Often, with nowhere else to look, we blame ourselves.

Allow yourself to feel, and hear this from someone who has been to the end.  The answer to why will never come, at least not in the way you want it to. Your loved one did not even know why. At least 90% of people who die by suicide do so because of impaired judgment and impulsivity. If they left a note, those “reasons” were constructed from confusion. 

Often, the holidays stir up memories of loss. Gratitude might come harder. This Thanksgiving, let yourself rest. Resign blame and be at peace. 

Today’s Helpful Word

Psalm 28:7

 The LORD is my strength and shield. I trust him with all my heart. He helps me, and my heart is filled with joy. I burst out in songs of thanksgiving.

*********Comments are always welcome (see tab below) NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

*In the case of someone “driving” a person to suicide, extreme circumstances, such as Michelle Carter who urged her boyfriend to kill himself,  would be called murder. This post is written to the vast majority of survivors of suicide loss who cared directly or indirectly for the life of the one who died. 

What You Look for is Exactly What You Find: Discover Happiness

Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness   (c)2017 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

One quick look at world news, and we need a good story to wash off all the corruption and heinous crimes and abuses.

Uplifting articles are available if we will look for them. In the past week, some co-workers showed their support to a young man who rides his bike 6 miles one way to work every day, no matter the weather. They bought him a car.  In Baltimore, a returning soldier surprises his children at school.

In my corner of the world, a mentoring program initiated by our governor is teaching middle school students in Cleveland, Ohio to dream beyond supposed limitations.  About twenty people from my church are in Houston helping to clean-up after Hurricane Harvey.  A friend drove me to the hospital for a procedure and waited for hours.  These are good stories, and they are everywhere.

Will we look for them?

“Challenge yourself: Look for the positives in your day …and find happiness!  Oftentimes what you look for is EXACTLY what you find,” wrote Dr. Louis Bevilacqua, founder of Sanare Today, a multi-location holistic mental health and addictions Intensive Outpatient Program.  If he is right, then we need to look for beauty. 

There is a world of difference between looking for the positives and denying struggle.  By admitting we hurt, we remain in the truth.  This post is not promoting  ‘positive-thinking’ in the sense that we cheerlead ourselves into being who we are not or do not want to be.  Our challenge is to own up to pain, and find the equally realistic better parts of life.

Today I woke feeling down.  Despite temptation to mull over sad truths,  I thanked God for rest and warm shelter. Guess what happened next? I smiled! Choosing to acknowledge God and his love made the morning’s start easier and more pleasant.

Where are positives when life is dark?

Understandably,  critical life stressors press hard.  Sometimes our hearts feel as if they have stopped. We see only pain. Emptiness rules our days, and desperation, our nights. How is looking for the positives supposed to help then?

When I was at that point, I knew only a handful of positives outside agony.  Here is the short list.

  1. In the depths of a sense of worthlessness, I knew other people, many of them strangers in health care, wanted me to survive.
  2. Emotionally lost and unaware of my footing, I knew only that I was on my feet.
  3. When suicide seemed the obvious choice,  I knew God might have other plans.
  4. Drowning in a sense of abandonment, I knew Jesus was still present.

These facts were all but buried under hopelessness. Yet because they existed, I could look to them as glimmers in the dark. Clearly, this was no picture of cheerleading!  Combined, they were the thread that connected me to the next step. Then the next. Then the next.

Mine was a long recovery. Learning to tally the good created a space where I could start to believe in life’s purposes.  It is my hope that you will see your opportunity to look for possibilities instead of focusing on bad news. 

Today’s Helpful Word

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.

*********Comments are always welcome (see tab below) NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

Why Diets Fail. 4 Steps to Controlling What You Eat

Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness   (c)2017 Nancy Virden, Always The Fight Ministries

Diets like the cottage cheese diet, grapefruit diet, Atkins, fasting to cleanse the body, restricting, Weight Watchers, Slim Fast, and Deal-A-Meal, require  hours to days of planning. The most popular ones allow for some excesses of favorite foods.

Slim-down-quick schemes are attractive, but rarely, if ever, produce long-lasting success. For some (many, in fact) people, the problem is not a need for weight-loss. It is about changing a mindset of compulsive behavior.  

Compulsive behaviors around food will not change if  food remains a go-to for instant relief and peace of mind. Once food’s failure to make life better is recognized,  balanced eating will appear more attractive.

Professional help with a food addictions counselor (they are rare!) and a nutritionist  for creating an individualized food plan is beneficial. The focus has to be on mental health. Watching the scale is self-defeating. By learning to cope in healthier ways, weight will take care of itself.

The solution

a)Take it very slow.  At a slow pace, simply allowing our body to adjust itself, means  brains and bodies have opportunity to change in reaction to food. This  kind of weight loss is maintainable. 

b)Become aware of “alcoholic foods” and avoid them permanently.  There are foods, specific to each person, that have to be put away for good. These foods or combinations of foods are triggers that lead to overeating. The same as a recovering alcoholic can never have a beer, certain foods will destroy best intentions. 

c)Enjoy eating from a customized and metabolically designed food plan. Eat by the clock and by measured nutritional requirements. A compulsive eater has a broken hunger alarm. It no longer accurately reports when a stomach is full or in need of food or water.  

d) Seek out available support. Food addictions counselors, eating disorders treatment centers, and 12-step groups for compulsive eaters are available in most areas. Online help is offered by some professionals. People understand and are non-judgmental. Therapy for other issues may also free us from compulsive behaviors. 

Taking care of oneself is important because everyone matters.  Like any fine artwork,  completion follows taking the time to get it right.

Today’s Helpful Word

Luke 12:23

For life is more than food…

 

*******

Comments are always welcome (see tab below) NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.

If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help is yours.

 -Pictures by AYLA87 and TACLUDA from rgbstock.com